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April 25, 2012

The Rise of Polypharmacy

Polypharmacy (which means “many drugs”), refers to the potentially poisonous chemical cocktail of multiple drugs that many people are taking, and is an increasing health concern not just for the elderly, but for everyone.  There's no doubt that the US has been manipulated into becoming a "polypharmacy nation." The number of prescriptions taken by Americans increased 72 percent from 1997 to 2007. Last year alone, 3.8 billion prescriptions were filled, with an average of nearly 13 prescriptions filled by each and every American, according to the New York Times, while the number of opiate prescriptions increased over 400 percent.


According to the latest statistics from the Kaiser Health Foundation, the average American adult, aged 19 to 64, now takes more than 11 prescription drugs. So while polypharmacy used to be primarily a concern for seniors—who, on average fill more than 31 prescriptions per year—polypharmacy now applies to virtually everyone, including children and toddlers, whose drug use now averages out to four or more drugs per child.

On average, if you take just one prescription drug you'll be exposed to 70 potential side effects. Mixing two or more drugs together increases your chances of    suffering serious side effects exponentially.  This is a very significant problem that is not getting much attention. Even when patients bring this problem to the  attention of their doctors, they are often rebuffed.

Despite all of these drugs, Americans are not walking around with stellar health. Instead, chronic disease rates are rising and the latest study published in Health Affairs revealed that the United States now ranks 49th for life expectancy        worldwide, a ranking that has fallen sharply from fifth place in 1950.

Prescription Drugs Deadlier Than Illegal Drugs
You might not realize that more than 700,000  people visit U.S. emergency rooms each year as a result of adverse drug reactions. And, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), adverse drug reactions from drugs that are properly prescribed and properly administered cause about 106,000 deaths per year, making prescription drugs the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States. Compare this to the death toll from illegal drugs -- which is about 10,000 per year -- and you begin to see the magnitude of the problem that the pharmaceutical industry is propagating.

More recently, Johns Hopkins Medical School refined this research and discovered that medical errors and prescription drugs together may actually be the LEADING cause of death. So the primary form of "health care" and treatment in the United States may actually prematurely kill more people than any disease plaguing our society!


The Incredible Cost of Polypharmacy
An analysis of federal data by the nonprofit Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) discovered that fatalities from adverse drug reactions accounted for 23 percent of all adverse reaction reports! This should serve as a wakeup call for    everyone. We're not talking about headaches and nausea anymore—we're talking about death being reported as the side effect in nearly one out of every four cases of adverse reactions.

Excessive drug use is also extremely expensive. First, drugs cost the US health care system nearly one trillion dollars a year. But that's not all. We also spend tens of billions of dollars to treat the side effects of those drugs! So the idea that "more and better drugs" are the answer to our nation's failing health is clearly misguided.

Another significant problem of polypharmacy is that it leads to more prescriptions!  Yes, the side effects of polypharmacy are oftentimes confused with symptoms of yet another disease or health problem; setting into motion a vicious cycle of decreasing health followed by more  and more prescriptions rather than fewer.


Signs of Potentially Harmful Drug Interactions
Common signs and symptoms that may be  indicative of a detrimental interaction between two or more drugs include:  sleepiness or decreased alertness, confusion (chronic or intermittent), weakness, anxiety or excitability, nausea, constipation, diarrhea or incontinence, dizziness and/or falls, tremors, skin rashes, loss of appetite, depression or lack of interest in your usual activities, hallucinations, decreased or altered sexual behavior.

Keep in mind that symptoms of drug side effects can occur very quickly after starting a new medication, or it may take awhile. Many factors can come into play, so do not dismiss new symptoms as unrelated to a drug reaction just because you've been on the drug, or drugs, for a few weeks or even months (and they may get worse with time).


Framework for Medical Research is Flawed
For any given media story about health, there is a greater than 50 percent chance that it is completely inaccurate. This is not the media's fault, as they are typically reporting the “facts” straight from the researchers' mouths. The problem actually lies in the scientific research itself.

Dr. John Ioannidis, the chief of Stanford University's Prevention Research Center, states that there is less than a 50 percent chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper will be true. According to his study:  "Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true."


You Can't Trust a Study Just Because it's in a Medical Journal
Research published in medical journals gets the golden star of approval in the media, yet many, if not most, of the findings are incredibly misleading. One of the best exposés into this muddled system came from none other than Dr. Marcia Angell, who was the former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). In her book The Truth about Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, she exposed many examples of why medical studies often cannot be trusted, and said flat out: "Trials can be rigged in a dozen ways, and it happens all the time."


Drug to Drug Interactions
Mike Adams of Natural News wrote the following in his health column about the growing problem of polypharmacy.  “As you already guessed, there’s a fatal flaw in this pharmaceutical approach to sick care: Pharmaceuticals have never been tested in combination with other drugs. So all the so-called “gold standard science” is absolutely worthless at knowing what might happen when half a dozen pharmaceutical drugs are combined in a patient’s body.

Despite the fact that no combination testing has ever been done on pharmaceuticals, they are regularly prescribed in combination. Obviously, this creates a whole new realm of unknown risk based on the way multiple drugs might chemically interact in the human body.

The more pharmaceuticals you take, the more dangerous they become. While one pharmaceutical chemical may at first seem harmless (even though just one drug can actually kill you), when you start adding a second, third, fourth and fifth prescription on top of that, you’re dealing with Pharmaceutical Toxicity (APT) that’s never even been tested in clinical trials.

Pharmacists are trained to help people avoid the most toxic two-drug combinations, but they rarely have any real knowledge about what happens when you combine three, four, five or more drugs. No one does. The science has simply never been done on that question. It’s no wonder: With all the possible combinations and permutations of pharmaceutical toxicity, it would take literally trillions of clinical trials to test them all.”


Who is Really Responsible for Your Health?
You are the only one who can be fully responsible for your health. You can choose to believe that this responsibility rests on someone else's shoulders, but at the end of the day, you are the one who has to live with the consequences, for better or worse.

Unfortunately, a majority of people have been successfully brainwashed into thinking that FDA-approved drugs are both safe and effective. This is a tragedy of epic proportions because nothing could be further from the truth.

It's important to understand that even if a drug has gone through unbiased, stringent, long-term testing—which most do NOT undergo prior to approval—you may still experience harmful effects. The drug may interact badly with another drug you're taking or with a food you're eating. Your genetic makeup, metabolism, or the state of your immune system can also cause it to have an unpredictable impact.

Sadly, studies are frequently biased, results are skewed, and drugs are put on a fast-track to be approved long before anyone knows whether they're safe. In essence, taking a drug is a gamble, and there isn’t a single drug that is 100 percent safe, not even over-the-counter versions.

Unfortunately, doctors are not likely to change their prescription habits any time soon because that's what they're trained to do. In many cases, writing prescriptions is ALL they do! So as a patient, you must take it upon yourself to question the drugs prescribed to you.

Basic health strategies can address many common health      problems. Viewing drugs as a last resort rather than a first-line defense would go a long way toward changing the current drug paradigm. There are many health conditions that can be prevented or effectively treated with lifestyle changes alone.  Know that     maintaining good health as you age, without the use of drugs, IS possible.

  • Eat unprocessed, high-quality foods , organic if possible
  • Eliminating fructose and most grains
  • Get sufficient amounts of sun exposure to optimize your vitamin D levels
  • Consume enough high quality animal based omega-3 fats
  • Exercise EVERY day
  • Continue the Upper Cervical Lifestyle – get checked regularly!!!

The preceding information was taken from a series of four articles written

by Dr. Joseph Mercola (for more information visit www.mercola.com)


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